NASA has reportedly canceled its planned 2022 moon rover exploration. The U.S. space agency announced the news in an official statement released on Friday.
According to the NASA statement, the development of the instruments that were to fly to the moon on the Resource Prospector mission will continue as they will be sent to the lunar surface on commercial landers in future.
The instruments that were planned to launch onboard NASA’s Resource Prospector mission would have searched for subsurface hydrogen on the moon, water or water-bearing minerals, and a drill to extract a sample of the moon’s surface.
The planned rover would have carried sensors to analyze the underground material heated in an onboard oven in search of water and other potential resources, including helium, hydrogen sulfate, methane, ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Furthermore, the rover would have explored the moon’s Polar Regions to check for resources that future missions could refine into drinking water, oxygen, and rocket propellant.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator who joined the office the same day as Resource Prospector’s cancellation, tweeted that the space agency is committed to lunar exploration.
“Resource Prospector instruments will go forward in an expanded lunar surface campaign,” Bridenstine tweeted. “More landers. More science. More exploration. More prospectors. More commercial partners.”
The Resource Prospector mission reportedly never advanced beyond the early design and development stages. It is expected that the cancellation of the 2022 Moon mission may be due to a budget allocation shift. The Resource Prospector Mission funding has reportedly been moved from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to the Space Mission Directorate, the group which focuses on robotic missions for research, not for the economic purposes which are part of the exploration group’s charge.
According to Phil Metzger, a planetary physicist at the University of Central Florida, currently, there are no other NASA missions being planned to go to the surface of the moon. Metzger is also part of the science team for Resource Prospector Mission, the lunar and planetary exploration planning group.